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Dual language transition plans concerns aired : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Dual language transition plans concerns aired
School district board asked to consider extra high school level course

by Lyle R. Rolfe


Tina Gonzalez of Oswego talked to Oswego School District Board members this past week about the district's Dual Language (DL) program offered in the district's junior high and high schools.

Dual language means a course is taught in both English and Spanish.

Gonzalez said she has two children who are Dual Language students.

"It has come to the DL community's attention that the district has designed a transition plan for our current eighth grade DL students who will be moving on to high school next year," she said, adding, "The plan was verbally introduced to a small group of parents at a Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting on Oct. 30, changed slightly, and mentioned again at the most recent BPAC meeting on Dec. 4.

Gonzalez said she and others in the DL community are concerned that the stakeholders in the program were not given a voice in a process that would greatly affect their students.

She noted that the plan differs from one previous administrations had told them about a few years ago. She said these parents believe they should have an opportunity to discuss the plan.

"The previous program directors as well as the parents envisioned it as a path that would prepare our students for their future college and or work environments as fully bilingual, bi-literate, and bicultural learners," she said, adding, "Just as we expect our students to continue to study English to at least a twelfth grade proficiency level while in high school, we envision our bilingual DL students continuing their Spanish studies with that same rigor."

Gonzalez said their goals appear to align with the district's strategic plan and they are hopeful the administration will meet to discuss the possibilities.

Their goal is to have their students well prepared for and have the opportunity to complete both the AP (Advanced Placement), Spanish Language course as well as the AP Spanish Literature course early in their high school careers. This would allow them to move on to possible college in the schools or internship opportunities, Gonzalez said.

They would like to have a second course available in Spanish to allow for a broader and deeper understanding of the language, it's cultural uses and nuances, she said.

"In addition, we would like the opportunity to look into the assessment and/or course requirements that will be needed for the new State Seal of Bi-literacy.

"If the district chooses to pursue it, it would give students in the Oswego schools,who are bi-literate in any language, a seal that you would place on their diplomas. It would acknowledge their bi-literate status. It is listed as Public Act 98-0560 and became effective August 27, 2013," Gonzalez said.

"As parents, we've been researching our students' best educational opportunities since before they started school and we chose a program with this design and the potential that goes with it.

"Our family even built a home in this community because of the DL program. We know it has the potential to become a world-class program," she said, adding, "Again, we are asking that our voices be heard before final decisions, that so greatly affect our children, are made.

"As we understand it, the board will be voting to accept new courses and course changes for the 2014-2015 high school course catalog. As no Dual Language or Spanish immersion classes are listed in that document, we would like to ask that you not approve the list at this time if it will represent all final courses that will be available next year," she said.

She agreed that if other courses can be added at a later date, if needed, the issue could be further addressed at another time.

"As parents, we know a well-run, well-designed program can produce world-class graduates. After all of the work our students have already done, please provide them with the tools that will give them the chance to prove it," Gonzalez said.

As is the board's policy, no board discussion took place on the subject, but Bill Walsh, board president, told Gonzalez someone from the district would send a response to her comments by email or regular mail to her home.

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